Ask me to swing a tennis racket, dribble an orange ball, swat a shuttlecock or jog a 10-K and I’m fine. But, the one sport that I admit complete ignorance on is the one activity that’s revered by millions: Martial Arts.
Aikido, karatedo, judo, taekwondo, and many more ‘Do’s that include Kendo, Hapkido, Jukendo—they are aplenty. Add one more type of combat that’s venerated from the U.K. to the U.S. and, above all, in Cebu…. Eskrima. Kali. Arnis.
The three are one. They’re the same. Or so I learned when, last Tuesday night and together with my fellow scribes from the Sportswriters Association of Cebu (SAC), we trooped to a home that is a mecca of martial arts.
Doce Pares. Located at #31 Eagle St. of Sto. Niño Village in Banilad, the name “Doce Pares” is admired in the world of Filipino martial arts.
Gerald Cañete, only 27 years old but with decades of martial arts history swimming in his veins, welcomed us to his home and to the headquarters of the World Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation (WEKAF).
Minutes after I arrived together with Mike Limpag, Noel Villaflor, Jonas Panerio and Karlon Rama, taxi after taxi stopped at the front door. Out emerged non-Filipinos. In fact, they were British and numbered dozens.
Which brings me to one of the most-awaited events in Cebu this 2008, the 10th World Eskrima Kali Arnis Championships. Can you believe, over 500 foreigners have landed in our shores to compete? I didn’t know that. Until I saw the Britons myself. They were muscular, white, tall, black and all wore the same T-shirt with the print at the back, “Cebu, Philippines.”
This competition, slated this Wednesday to Friday (July 23 to 25), is a must-watch—even for neophytes like you and me. It’s not local or national—but a true “World Championships.”
“Most of the participants come here for multiple reasons,” said Gerald Cañete. “One is to compete, and the other is to train with different Masters and Grandmasters based in Cebu. Also, this is a time for fighters and their families to relax in Cebu—an event part of sports tourism.”
Gerald Cañete (left) explaining the basics of eskrima
Team U.S.A.? They’re sending a 110-person delegation, the biggest among the foreign teams. This number will be matched by our Philippine contingent, who are aiming to reclaim the overall trophy after losing the crown two years ago (in Florida, U.S.A.) and, back in 2004, when Cebu City last hosted.
Last Tuesday night at the WEKAF Headquarters, our group of 12 sportswriters was treated not only to crispy CNT lechon and savory dinuguan, but to a thorough explanation of the rules of Eskrima by Gerald Cañete. Next, we saw a full demonstration of arnis, with two fighters in padded attire striking each other, slamming and whacking using rattan sticks.
Karlon Rama (left) hitting a smiling Mike Limpag with Noel Villaflor at the back
Finally, the best part: the Supreme Grandmaster himself, Atty. Dionisio Cañete, lecturing on the sport he’s nurtured for decades. Looking fit as a 40-year-old with biceps that showed his robust build—he’s already 70—Diony Cañete demonstrated with his own two hands how to thwart attackers, swipe an aggressor’s hand, and snatch that knife and wallop the enemy.
Atty. Diony Cañete
Supreme Grandmaster Cañete with Noel Villaflor
The founder and chairman emeritus of WEKAF—the world-governing body of Filipino martial arts—Atty. Diony Cañete sweated. He preached. He taught us a discourse on Eskrima. He gripped a bolo, a dagger. He exuded, from the smile on his face to the graceful workings of his arms and feet, a man loaded with passion.
Atty. Cañete with some members of the British team
Yes, passion. And if you want to see that word in action, visit Ayala Center three days from now. A non-martial arts follower who never before appreciated Arnis and Eskrima, I’ll be there to watch. So, I hope, will you.